Let’s look at the pros and cons of allowing Roswell residents to create vegetable gardens in their front yards.
•Unregulated frontyard gardening would probably lead to many tacky landscapes. No one wants to see his or her neighbors plow up their front yard, plant rows of corn and stick a scarecrow in the center of the yard.
•Parents might encourage their children to start frontyard gardens, which then languish and turn into unkempt weed beds when kids get tired of tending them.
•People might begin staking their tomato vines or cucumber plants with makeshift stick supports, kite-string trellises and other unsightly contraptions.
•Unregulated frontyard gardens can block sight lines for motorists and pedestrians.
•Garden plots are empty dirt patches during the winter and early planting months, appearing unsightly. Empty or recently seeded plots are also more vulnerable to erosion.
However, many of these same issues already exist with tacky floral displays that make a home look like a gaudy cemetery when you include the plants, planters, statues, etc. Many Roswell homeowners also don’t maintain their grass lawns, leaving dirt patches, exposed roots, weeds and other unsightly features the highlights of their landscape.
Additionally, my “Who’d Qualify” proposal for permitting frontyard gardens would eliminate all of these negatives associated with frontyard gardens.
Increased Legal Protection for the City
If the City of Roswell could demonstrate to a judge hearing a legal challenge that the City allowed and encouraged frontyard gardening by enacting a more expansive code, Roswell could probably fight off more legal challenges. For example, in addition to defining the many ways Roswell property owners could plant vegetables in their front yards (in planters, using hanging pots, with raised beds, etc.), the city could also create more restrictions, such as setback requirements, plant heights, limited size of a single plot, restrictions on materials used, requiring covering of bare gardens with pine straw during the winter, etc. Roswell might also be able to create a robust permitting process for frontyard gardens.
Roswell Becomes a Hipper, More Attractive Place to Live
Imagine the PR for Roswell when magazines, TV stations, websites and newspapers across the U.S. cover the city’s encouragement of “edible front yards.” If the landscaping of frontyard gardens was regulated, these properties would look attractive, and better, in many cases, than the weedy, barely tended yards of many residents.
Organizations such as the Georgia Chapter of the American Landscape Architects might organize tours or these homes.
And, Roswell would get this PR with only a few dozen, permitted and designed edible front yards. I doubt hundreds of residents are going to go through the process of applying for a permit, submitting a design, attending a workshop, having a site visit, etc.
Increased Grocery Store Sales
While you might think people growing their own vegetables would decrease the sales of grocery stores and farmer’s markets, the opposite would probably be true.
People who grow their own vegetables will cook more. That means they’ll be buying more proteins, seasonings, condiments, stocks, cooking oils, side dish foods (pasta, rice, beans), breads, dessert items, cooking utensils, etc.
Most home gardeners will only grow a limited number of vegetables. As they begin cooking more, they’ll want to add new vegetables to their menus, and they’ll buy them from grocery stores and farmer’s markets (which they may have never attended before).
Decreased pressure on local charities
Not only will struggling families need less food from local food banks if they home garden, many new Roswell gardeners might start donating some of their vegetables to food pantries, schools, soup kitchens and houses of worship.
The less food banks and soup kitchens in Roswell need to fundraise, the more donations residents and businesses can make to youth sports leagues, arts groups, etc.
Lawns are a big drag on the environment. Lawns treated with fertilizers and chemical applications are less healthy for Roswell’s environment than gardens. Ones that aren’t treated are usually eyesores (the reason for banning frontyard gardens). Many common lawn chemicals are banned in other countries because most, if not all, are toxic in a variety of ways. Lawns also use more water than gardens.
Helps Roswell Businesses/Employers
Workers who eat more fruits and vegetables are healthier than those who eat mostly convenience and fast foods. Healthier employees result in reduced absenteeism and health care costs, increased productivity and efficiency.
Improved Sense of Neighborhood
The neighborhood that grows together . . . um . . . grows together? Seriously, more home gardens will lead to more interaction among neighbors who share tips and techniques. Frontyard gardens create more awareness than those hidden in backyards. Neighborhood gardeners often share their vegetables with others. As more subdivisions create Facebook Groups for their neighborhoods, more neighbors will share tillers, tools, labor and veggies.